Have you ever climbed rocks when flakes of snow are flying around you? Have you ever looked down upon a valley from the top of a cliff, after climbing 80 feet up on it? Have you ever slept inside a tent when it’s snowing all around you? Have you known the beauty of an orange sunset that showers the snow-capped peaks with its dying rays and mesmerizes you into staring at them till the darkness falls upon you, replacing the blankness of sky with star-studded awesomeness? Have you gone out with a group of strangers and yet, experienced a warm camaraderie developed quickly through rigors of climbing and living in harsh weather elements, with dirt in your hair & sweat on the clothes? My week-long rock climbing trip at Shelf Road, Colorado was nuanced with such beautiful moments and was one of my best climbing experiences in the outdoors.
Called a sport climber’s mecca, Shelf Road has about 1000 bolted routes on pocketed limestone, with difficulty rating varying from 5.5 to 5.13. In our 5 days long stay, we climbed in 3 of the 6-7 areas in which climbing at Shelf Road is divided. Everyone got a chance to push his/her limits by starting with routes they were comfortable with and slowly graduating to more difficult ones.
Enjoying the first views of the Cactus Cliff from the Bank
Life is mostly a sinusoidal wave. Sometimes you hit a plateau and keep going until you either take a deep plunge or opt for a steep uphill climb. That way, plateau also is a fun place to be in. At least it leads you to something more exciting. But what happens when you find yourself in a – how do I say it without sounding dull – Plain?
I live in Bloomington, South Indiana – relatively the most hilly part of Indiana state. One would imagine hills rolling away into horizon or something of that sort when I say that. At least those accustomed to the majestic Himalayan heights or the rugged beauty of Sahyadris would do so. But all those folks will be in for a disappointment; because this part of the United States just does not know what real mountains are like. May be folks in Denver know better. Alas, I can’t be there right now.
But fear not, for every place has its own charm and it would be idiotic to miss out on the same just because you could not find your 18000 feet high snow clad peaks here. Bloomington, the county seat of Monroe County, happens to be only 30 minutes away from an eponymous lake. This lake is the biggest one in the state and is surrounded by forests on all sides. The whole forested area has been divided into various wilderness zones and one fine weekend in September , we decided to camp in one of those. Charles C. Deam Wilderness, which was to become our destination, encompasses 13000 acres of Hoosier National Forest and plays hosts to multiple hiking and horse riding trails.
If I remember correctly, Windows Operating System used to come loaded with a bunch of scenic wallpapers, one of which featured nicely bundled up hay rolls, lying lazily in the sun. I don’t know the country in which that photo was captured but I was reminded of it recently during a leisurely bike ride in the American countryside.
Imagine rolling corn fields alternating with patches of land full of dried, yellow balls of hay. Imagine a clear blue sky, cracked with white Cirrus lines. Can you see the gray colored path passing in between and along the farms? The path sometimes gets surrounded by tall trees and that makes you feel as if you have entered the woods. You cross a bridge – a river whose name you don’t know yet – flowing below you. And just as suddenly, you come out in the open, to be surrounded on both sides by farms again. They seem to stretch all around you – flatness of the land trying to overpower your usual sense of familiarity with lofty mountain peaks. Raccoons cross you as you pedal by. Almost in conjunction to the strenuous pedaling you underwent at the last bend, a reward appears out of nowhere, in the form of a calm, soothing water body.
I was amusing myself by listening to the peculiar way the park ranger was explaining tour rules and guidelines to the group gathered around him. In the last 7 days, I had found out that Americans like to talk with a lot of animated expressions and gesturing. They modulate their voice quite often too. I was quietly enjoying his way of talking and the tongue in cheek statements when he announced that it was time the tour begins and we lined up with tickets in our hands.
Random trips are an integral part of my life. In the past, random trips is where I have met friends I would later become close to. Random trips is where I got opportunities to write my own adventure stories and those trips are where I got to see a lot of interesting stuff, that I would not have seen otherwise. So you know, random trips mean a lot to me. When I landed in USA about 9 days back to join a master’s course and found that I have a lot of free time before school starts in which I could tag along with new found friends on a drive to Nashville, it was natural that I would not miss the chance.
It was as if we had ascended above the clouds and had entered the holy territory. Below us, we could see the white carpet engulf the entire valley to our left. I was not sure, if I jump onto the carpet, whether I will land on the cloudy wisps or fall to my death to the bottom of the valley.
On the way to Katarmal Sun Temple
This was the Sun god’s territory. Our car had taken an offshoot of the road between Kathgodam and Kausani so as to be able to visit the Sun temple in Almora district of Uttarakhand ( altitude 2116m). After boarding the taxi car at Kathgodam at 5 a.m., we had travelled on the beautiful stretch of the road that would take us to Kausani. After a bit of effort spent in convincing the driver to take us to this 800 years old temple and wasting a little more time in finding the correct bifurcation, we found ourselves on the kacchha road that was climbing up the mountain towards Katarmal Sun Temple.
I have only about a month and a half’s time before I leave Delhi. My 17 months long stay here has been full of traveling, new friends, new activities and new experiences. From language to dressing sense to food habits to bargaining skills, this city has changed me.
I have been meaning to write this post since quite some time. But sometimes, stories about one’s best experiences are left for the end, as the dessert. After multiple posts covering my trips to the historic places associated with Delhi and around, I would like to bring you folks’ attention to my favorite spot in Delhi.
Located in South Delhi, just beside the South Campus of Delhi University ( DU ), Indian Mountaineering Foundation (IMF) is the place I have spent most of my weekend at, starting last February. IMF is the premier mountaineering body of India and it’s the go to place if one wants to plan an expedition to a peak in the Indian territory. It’s a government organization and for all it’s red tape and bureaucracy, it seems like an efficiently run institution. The campus is lush green with trees and well maintained lawn. The main complex of the building houses the administrative office, lodging facilities for sponsored mountaineers and a library. Outside the building but within the premises, the institute has built Artificial Climbing Walls, adhering to international standards. Climbing wall is what attracted me to IMF and very soon, it had become my adda on weekends.
There is a great advantage in being associated with an activity passionately and for a considerable duration of time, no matter how good or bad you are at it.
The advantage is that you start belonging to the community who values, nurtures and encourages your love or liking for that activity. Go to any place and you will end up finding your old friends or friends’ friends or friends’ friends’ friends, ready to take you in, through that community bonding.
I found myself in Pune for a month for a work trip and it was inevitable that I would end up climbing rocks on weekends. Sadly, I don’t have any pictures to show off for Pune climbing but on one Saturday, I caught a bus for Mumbai and was already at home and playing with my friend Archana’s beautiful twin nephews by lunchtime. Archana, her elder brother Milind and their another climber friend Dinesh would take me to Belapur the next day for some climbing.
To quote the place description on Rockclimbing.com,
“CBD Belapur is an extension of Parsik hills that has been explored and developed as climbing and bouldering site. There are lots of bouldering routes ranging from V1 to V8 opened at the site. There are a some bolted sport routes as well ranging from 5a to 7b. The area has been host to open international bouldering and lead climbing competition and artificial bouldering as well.”
More information on how to reach : http://www.rockclimbing.com/routes/Asia/India/Maharashtra/Mumbai/CBD_Belapur/
CBD Belapur has long been popular among Mumbai climbers for its suitability for rock climbing. The hillocks have huge boulders and rock walls that make it an ideal site for climbing. Access to this place is very easy too. Members of Girivihar, the famous Climbing/Trekking/Mountaineering organisation based out of Mumbai routinely conducts its rock climbing camps in this area and initiates youngsters into this fabulous sport.